Mark Stephens (solicitor)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Mark Stephens

A portrait of Mark Stephens in 2011
Mark Stephens in 2011
Born (1957-04-07) 7 April 1957 (age 65)
Known forSenior Member Howard Kennedy, Chair of Design and Artists Copyright Society, University of East London, Board of the Independent Schools Inspectorate Chair of Internews. Past President of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association. Writing and Broadcasting.

Mark Howard Stephens CBE (born 7 April 1957) is an English solicitor specialising in media law, intellectual property rights, freedom of speech and human rights with the firm Howard Kennedy LLP. He is known for representing James Hewitt when allegations of his affair with Diana, Princess of Wales first emerged. In 2010, he represented Julian Assange, the founder of the whistleblower website, WikiLeaks, defending him against extradition to Sweden.

Personal life and education[edit]

Stephens was born in Old Windsor, Berkshire, on 7 April 1957.[1][2] His father was an artist, and his mother a secretary and later a social worker.[3] He attended St Paul's Secondary Modern School and Strode's Grammar School, followed by the Cambridge Manor Academy for Dramatic Arts, before going on to study law at North East London Polytechnic. He went on to study European Community Law at the Vrije Universiteit in Brussels and was then admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court in England and Wales in July 1982.[4][5] He married Donna Coote in 1982, and they have three daughters.[1]

Legal career[edit]


In 1983, with Roslyn Innocent, he established Stephens Innocent as a law firm to specialise in visual arts and intellectual property.[1][6]

In February 1991, Stephens was acting as a solicitor for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) when John Hendy, Geoffrey Robertson and two other QCs defended Arthur Scargill and Peter Heathfield against claims that they had handled funds inappropriately during the miner's strike of 1984–85.[7][8] In 1992 he worked on a case brought by the NUM against the government that saw an earlier decision to close 31 coal mines overturned after it was deemed unlawful.[9]

When allegations of an affair between James Hewitt and Diana, Princess of Wales were published by The Sun in 1992, Stephens claimed through the Press Association he had issued proceedings against the newspaper for defamation, even though he had not actually served the writ.[10][11] Princess Diana later admitted the affair on television.[10]


In 1993 Stephens helped the MP Clive Soley to draft a parliamentary bill on press regulation. Stephens commented that people thrust into the public light needed protection from the press but that "astronomical" fines would be needed to be able to achieve this.[12] According to The Guardian, his public profile was further raised by defending Greenpeace in 1995 against litigation brought by Shell over an alleged illegal occupation of the Brent Spar oil platform.[13]

Stephens provided pro bono assistance to two activists, Helen Steel and David Morris, who had handed out leaflets entitled "What's wrong with McDonald's?" in 1985 and were subsequently tried for libel. The case began in 1990 and became the longest running court case in UK history. After the defendants were fined £60,000 he took their case to the ECHR in 2004, where they successfully appealed against the fine.[14][15]


In August 2000, Stephens was retained by heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson for a hearing before the British Boxing Board of Control. The disciplinary hearing related to 2 counts relating to Tyson's behaviour after his 38-second victory over Lou Savarese in Glasgow in June that year, Tyson escaped a ban from fighting in Britain.[16] Tyson was acquitted on one charge but convicted on the other count and fined.

In January and December 2002 Stephens was retained by the Washington Post to represent its veteran war correspondent, Jonathan Randal, in The Hague at the United Nations Court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, establishing the principle of qualified privilege for the protection of journalists in war crimes courts.[17]

In early 2007, instructed by aboriginal lawyer Michael Mansell, Stephens launched proceedings for the Tasmanian Aborigines to recover 15 sets of their stolen ancestral remains at the Natural History Museum in London, although the case was not seen through to completion. He accused the museum of wishing to retain them for "genetic prospecting".[18]

In 2008, he won an apology from a former police driver who had written "appalling lies" about the novelist and essayist Sir Salman Rushdie in a book he wrote. One allegation was that Rushdie had profited from the fatwa issued against him after publishing The Satanic Verses.[19]

2010 onwards[edit]

January 2010 brought the first – known colloquially as the alphabet soup case[20] – in the (then) new UK Supreme Court Stephens represented several media organisations to argue that the names of several people who were accused of funding terrorist organisations should have their anonymity stripped. The judges agreed with the media and ruled that the names should be released, noting that anonymity orders had become "deeply ingrained" in court cases in the UK.

In 2010, Stephens began to defend the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, against extradition to Sweden, where allegations had been made against Assange.[21] Soon after the WikiLeaks cables disclosure began, Stephens told The Guardian that he thought he was being monitored by the security services and that his home was being watched.[22] In January 2011, Stephens claimed that United States authorities were trying to develop a criminal case against Assange, citing, for example, a subpoena against Twitter issued by the United States Department of Justice to demand private information on Assange and other people associated with WikiLeaks.[23] The Guardian reported that Assange ended his relationship with Stephens after he accused Finers Stephens Innocent of withholding a £412,000 advance for his autobiography to cover legal fees. Assange accused them of "extreme overcharging" which Finers Stephens Innocent denied.[24] The firm sued Assange in January 2012 to recover fees.[25]

In July 2011, it was reported that Stephens had been one of a group of high-profile lawyers who may have been the victim of the News International phone hacking scandal.[26]


Stephens exercising his right as a Freeman of the City of London, by driving a sheep over London Bridge in 2009

Stephens has held many charitable, regulatory, government and academic appointments. He is also a Freeman of the City of London.[27] In 1986 he was appointed the treasurer of the North East London Law Society, and in 1989 was elected to the committee, becoming President.[28][29] He was on ICSTIS' (a premium telephone line regulator) emergency committee, but resigned in 1996, after it emerged he had not disclosed a possible conflict of interest.[30] Later that year, Stephens was appointed the first Chair of the Policy board of the Internet Watch Foundation and became the vice-chairman on the merger of the Policy and Management Boards.[31][32] He is currently a trustee of Index on Censorship,[33] Chair of the International Advisory Board of the Media Legal Defence Initiative,[34] the postgraduate course in comparative media law and social policy at Oxford University,[31] the Solicitors Pro bono Group (now, LawWorks),[35] and the International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute[36] and Media Law Committee.[37]

Stephens sits on the Advisory Boards of Oxford University's Programme in Comparative Media Law & Social Policy, at Wolfson College, Oxford, the University of Hong Kong Media Law Course and Indiana University's Center for International Media Law and Policy Studies.[38]

On 1 April 2006 Stephens was appointed to be a trustee of the International Law Book Facility, a charitable organisation whose objects are to donate lawbooks to improve access to legal information/access to justice where there is a need.[39][40]

From 2003-07, Stephens was a member of the board of governors of Rose Bruford College of Theatre & Performance.

In August 2009 he was appointed Chairman of the Governors at the University of East London[41] and in October 2010 as Chair of the Contemporary Art Society.[42]

He was appointed by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to be a member of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Free Expression Advisory Board;[4] in January 2010, he was appointed to a working group on libel laws, set up by the then Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, which published a report in March 2010.[43][44] Stephens is currently serving on the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association and was elected President of its Council at the Cape Town Conference in April 2013.[45][46]

In January 2011 Stephens was asked to Judge the documentary Current Affairs – International category 2009/2010 and was invited back in January 2012 to judge the same category for the Royal Television Society.

In October 2011, Mark Stephens was appointed as the new Chair of the Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS). Mark was instrumental in the establishment of DACS in 1984 – law firm Stephens Innocent was a home to DACS in the first years after its establishment.[47]

On 7 November 2011, Mark Stephens was appointed to the board of the Independent Schools Inspectorate.[48]

Stephens has become a patron of International Alert[49] the independent peacebuilding organisation that works to lay the foundations for lasting peace and security in communities affected by violent conflict.

Most recently, Stephens has become a member of the legal panel of the Human Dignity Trust[50] and a trustee on the UK board of the international media development organisation Internews.[51]


Stephens has contributed to seven books, Miscarriages of Justice: a review of justice in error (1999), International Libel and Privacy Handbook all four editions (2005), (2009), (2013), (2016) published by Bloomberg Press, La Presunción de Inocenicia Y Los Juicios Paralelos (2013) published by Wolters Kluwer (Spain) for the Fundación Fernando Pombo/Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo.,[1] Media Law & Ethics in the 21st Century (2014) published by Palgrave MacMillan, This is not a book about Gavin Turk (2014) published by Trolley Books, Media Law and Policy in the Internet Age (2016) published by Hart an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing, Media Law International (3rd Edition) - Specialist Guide for Global Leaders in Media Law Practice (2016) published by Media Law International.

He is also on the editorial boards of Communications Lawyer, Copyright World and European Intellectual Property Review.[31]


Mark Stephens after receiving his CBE in January 2012
Mark Stephens after receiving his CBE in January 2012

In 2001, Stephens was awarded an honorary doctorate in law by the University of East London.[1] He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2011 Birthday Honours for services to the legal professions and the arts.[52][53]


  1. ^ a b c d e Who's Who 2010. A&C Black. 1 December 2009. p. 2187. ISBN 978-1-4081-1414-8. Archived from the original on 17 February 2018. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  2. ^ "Assange-Anwalt: Der Mann mit den vielen Missionen" [Assange's Lawyer: The man with many missions] (in German). Die Presse. 22 January 2011. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 27 January 2011.
  3. ^ William Leith (7 January 2012). "Jogging with the FT: Mark Stephens". The Financial Times. Archived from the original on 8 January 2012. Retrieved 15 January 2012.
  4. ^ a b "Alumni network case studies – successful graduates from the School of Law". University of East London. 1 August 2009. Archived from the original on 10 September 2011. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  5. ^ "Mark Stephens CV at FSI". Finers Stephens Innocent. Archived from the original on 3 April 2009. Retrieved 28 January 2011.
  6. ^ Weschler, Lawrence (15 November 2000). Boggs: A Comedy of Values. University of Chicago Press. pp. 74–85. ISBN 978-0-226-89396-9. Retrieved 17 December 2010.
  7. ^ Milne, Seumas (17 September 2004). The enemy within: the secret war against the miners. Verso. pp. 115–. ISBN 978-1-84467-508-1. Retrieved 22 January 2011.
  8. ^ Seumas Milne (20 June 1991). "Criminal trial of NUM president collapses over legal snub". The Guardian.
  9. ^ Seumas Milne and Alan Travis (22 December 1992). "Court rules against pit closures". The Guardian.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  10. ^ a b "Under pressure". The Law Gazette. 14 July 2005. Archived from the original on 4 March 2012. Retrieved 27 January 2011.
  11. ^ "Special: Princess Diana, 1961–1997". Time Magazine. 14 September 1992. Archived from the original on 20 June 2008. Retrieved 27 January 2011.
  12. ^ "Media lawyers mostly cool on Calcutt report". The Law Gazette. 13 January 1993. Archived from the original on 21 September 2011. Retrieved 27 January 2011.
  13. ^ Macalister, Terry (15 December 2006). "Greenpeace lawyer prepares case against Shell". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 28 February 2014. Retrieved 5 December 2010.
  14. ^ Robins, Jon (6 September 2004). "Food for thought". The Lawyer. Archived from the original on 2 October 2012. Retrieved 5 December 2010.
  15. ^ Vidal, John (9 March 1996). "You and I against McWorld". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 3 January 2014. Retrieved 27 January 2011.
  16. ^ "Tyson Is Fined For Misconduct". New York Times. 23 August 2000. Archived from the original on 13 November 2013. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
  17. ^ "International Tribunal Recognizes Qualified Privilege for War Correspondents". Communications Lawyer. Winter 2003. Archived from the original on 22 September 2015. Retrieved 27 January 2011.
  18. ^ "Aboriginal remains row". Australian Broadcasting Corp. 21 February 2007. Archived from the original on 12 November 2012. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  19. ^ "Rushdie wins apology for 'appalling lies' in book". Evening Standard. 26 August 2008. Archived from the original on 20 February 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
  20. ^ "Application by Guardian News and Media Ltd and others" (PDF). Supreme Court. 27 January 2010. Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 April 2014. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  21. ^ "Wikileaks' Julian Assange to fight Swedish allegations". BBC. 5 December 2010. Archived from the original on 27 August 2011. Retrieved 5 December 2010.
  22. ^ Jones, Sam (5 December 2010). "Julian Assange's lawyers say they are being watched". The Guardian. UK. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 5 December 2010.
  23. ^ Yost, Pete; Satter, Raphael G. (8 January 2011). "WikiLeaks subpoenas spill out into public realm". AP/Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 12 January 2011. Retrieved 12 January 2011.
  24. ^ David Leigh, James Ball and Esther Addley (22 September 2011). "Julian Assange autobiography: why he didn't want it published". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 10 June 2017. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  25. ^ Erik Larson (31 January 2012). "WikiLeaks's Assange Sued by Ex-Lawyers as He Prepares U.K. Top Court Fight". Bloomberg L.P. Archived from the original on 3 September 2014. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  26. ^ "Solicitors' phones 'hacked by News of the World'". Ch4 News. 22 July 2011. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 29 August 2011.
  27. ^ "The Times Law100 2008. Mark Stephens: Media lawyer". The Times. 21 April 2008. Archived from the original on 12 June 2011. Retrieved 5 December 2010.
  28. ^ "Local Law Societies". The Law Gazette. 17 September 1986. Archived from the original on 4 March 2012. Retrieved 27 January 2011.
  29. ^ "Local law societies". The Law Gazette. 30 August 1989. Archived from the original on 4 March 2012. Retrieved 27 January 2011.
  30. ^ "Stephens quits telephone watchdog over potential 'conflict of interest'". The Lawyer. 22 October 1996. Archived from the original on 2 October 2012. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  31. ^ a b c Glasser, Charles J. (7 January 2009). International Libel and Privacy Handbook: A Global Reference for Journalists, Publishers, Webmasters, and Lawyers. Bloomberg Press. pp. 36–. ISBN 978-1-57660-324-6. Retrieved 17 December 2010.
  32. ^ "Townsend 'wrong' over child porn". BBC News. 12 January 2003. Archived from the original on 30 March 2009. Retrieved 5 December 2010.
  33. ^ "About Index on Censorship". Index on Censorship. Archived from the original on 20 January 2011. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  34. ^ "Our People – Mark Stephens". Media Legal Defence Initiative. Archived from the original on 17 March 2011. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  35. ^ "About us". LawWorks. Archived from the original on 1 August 2010. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  36. ^ "IBA Human Rights Institute – IBAHRI Council". IBA Human Rights Institute. 24 October 2008. Archived from the original on 14 October 2010. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  37. ^ "IBA launches media law and freedom of expression website to assist lawyers globally". International Bar Association. 21 January 2009. Archived from the original on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  38. ^ "Center for international Media Law and Policy Studies Advisory Board". Indiana University. Archived from the original on 2 July 2013. Retrieved 5 February 2013.
  39. ^ "International Law Book Facility". ILBF. 29 August 2011. Retrieved 29 August 2011.[permanent dead link]
  40. ^ "International Law Book Facility". Charity Commission. 1 April 2006. Archived from the original on 17 March 2012. Retrieved 29 August 2011.
  41. ^ "Mark Stephens appointed Chair of Governors at University of East London". University of East London. 15 July 2009. Archived from the original on 1 December 2010. Retrieved 5 December 2010.
  42. ^ "Contemporary Art Society announces new Chair". The Contemporary Art Society. 5 October 2010. Archived from the original on 25 July 2011. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  43. ^ Luft, Oliver (27 January 2010). "Jack Straw names libel reform working group". Press Gazette. Archived from the original on 16 June 2011. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  44. ^ "Libel Working Group report – Ministry of Justice". 23 March 2010. Archived from the original on 1 February 2011. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  45. ^ "Commonwealth Law Society Council". Business Day. Archived from the original on 29 April 2013. Retrieved 3 May 2013.
  46. ^ "Commonwealth Law Society Council". The Commonwealth Law Society. Archived from the original on 14 June 2012. Retrieved 3 May 2013.
  47. ^ "DACS announces new Chair". Design and Artists Copyright Society. Archived from the original on 27 February 2012. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  48. ^ "ISI new board director". Company Profiles. Archived from the original on 19 August 2014. Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  49. ^ "International Alert New Patron". International Alert. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
  50. ^ "Human Dignity Trust Legal Panel". Human Dignity Trust. 5 June 2012. Archived from the original on 28 June 2012. Retrieved 5 June 2012.
  51. ^ "Internews Directors and Trustees". Internews. Archived from the original on 13 April 2015. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
  52. ^ Tom Porter (13 June 2011). "Assange lawyer speaks of delight at receiving CBE". Epping Forest Guardian. Archived from the original on 17 June 2011. Retrieved 21 June 2011.
  53. ^ Jack Bremer (11 June 2001). "Assange defender Stephens gets honour from the Queen". The First Post. Archived from the original on 14 June 2011. Retrieved 12 June 2011.

External links[edit]